Flash Back 30 years: This 1973 photo (left) shows the lighthouse base in obvious disrepair. The 2003 photo at right shows there has been some effort to maintain the exterior. The park service does not allow climbing by the public because they say it needs renovation to make it safe. In fact, it has never been open for the public to climb.
1973 2003

Entry to Bodie Island Lighthouse is through the work building attached to the base, shown at left. Identical in design and layout to Currituck Beach Lighthouse, it too has a dated granite arch over the outside door. Note in the photo at right the victorian style decorations, vertical and horizontal "sticks", so popular in Outer Banks construction. The photo below at left shows the eave support detail of the work room building.

The left photo shows details of the eaves. The two photos at right show the north work room and the south work room. Note the curved blocks on the black "bench" of the south work room, present at either end of that room. This is where drums of oil were stored for use in the old oil lantern used as the lighthouse beacon, before the beacon was electrified. The floor is marble tiled in black and white, as is the hallway and the bottom floor at the base of the stairs around the "well".
At left is the view from the inside looking out. You are at the center of the lighthouse base by the "well", looking down along the central hallway out the front door. The work rooms are on either side of the hall. The hallway ceiling is high and arched.

Above where the hallway opens into the lighthouse base is a granite plaque. The photo below right shows the close-up detail of the plaque, which gives the location of the lighthouse in latitude and longitude, and the date. Don't let the dates throw you. The plaque inside says 1872, when the construction was completed. The date on the arch outside over the front door says 1871, which was when construction began.

You might note the spelling on the plaque says "Body's Island Light House" instead of Bodie Island Lighthouse. The spelling of the name varied from one map to another and one document to another, which was a very common occurrence in those days. Many names on the Outer Banks were spelled different ways until things became more standardized in the early to mid 20th century.
The left photo here (pre-restoration image) shows the base of the lighthouse stairs, and the "well", fenced in by the circular railing, and covered by the round black plate. This is where the weights used to power the beacon's geared rotating mechanism would be lowered for servicing. The weights hung from the top, down the center of the circular stairs. It was wound up by the keeper to keep the rotating gears working, much like a grandfather clock runs. The right photo is a 3-image composite of the first flight of stairs (post-restoration image).

The left image shows the first landing with the "well" and base floor below it. At right are two views looking up the center of the stairs. This view is identical to Currituck Beach Lighthouse. All the landings are on the same side of the structure (except the last one at the very top), so you can see all the way up in the half-round opening. Both Bodie Island and Currituck Beach Lighthouses take a good photo up the stairs. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, on the other hand, is a problem, since every landing alternates to the opposite side, leaving only a narrow slit to photograph beyond the next flight up.

Here are a few additional photos of Bodie Island Lighthouse taken at various times of the day. With the open expanse of sky all around, it's a great place to shoot a sunrise or sunset. Even days with great billowy clouds provide a wonderful backdrop against which to photograph this lighthouse.

An early morning photo
looking west from
highway NC 12.

This photo was taken in late afternoon, looking eastward.

A sunset masked by dark clouds in the west instead gave light and color to the eastern sky, providing an interesting backdrop for this photo.

This is one of the photos taken just before sunset, discussed in the Travel Journal entry above.

The soft orange glow of the western sky after sunset lights this scene facing east.

The long shadows of a late afternoon are evident in this shot framed by pines.

The brilliant red glow of the setting sun lights this scene, and reflects off the windows of the Keeper's Quarters.
Just like it's twin, Currituck Beach Lighthouse, the beautiful 1st Order Fresnel lens at Bodie Island provides a wonderful warm glow that photographs much better at night than the narrowly focused airport beacons used at Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout Lighthouses. This gives night photos much more character and interest, as seen at right, on an evening with a foggy mist settling in.
The beacon illuminates a light foggy mist around the lantern.

With every change in the sunlight and sky, Bodie Island Lighthouse takes on a different mood, making it an endlessly fascinating location for photos.

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Copyright © 2003 Fred Hurteau           * Copyright information and image use policy *

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